When Failure Is Your Starting Point There Is Nowhere to Go but Up. Are you the type of person that’s always looking for a good challenge? Here’s one for you to consider: We want you to provide financial literacy and entrepreneurial training to one of the poorest communities in your state. In fact, it’s also one of the poorest communities in the nation. The community of nearly 9,000 people doesn’t own land for homes or businesses. In many instances the people there have no credit score. Less than 1 percent of the businesses in the community are owned by a community member, and more than 47 percent of the jobs in the community are not in the private sector, but are government-related. Are you up for the challenge? It’s exactly what Tanya Fiddler took on when she became executive director of the Four Bands Community Fund, which serves the members of the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation.
From childhood we are taught about the importance of perseverance. We are told that in the face of adversity we are supposed to hold firm and to strive on. The truth is that this advice is easy to give but extremely difficult to put into practice. When we are faced with setbacks or failure we naturally question our approach, our abilities, and our determination. We know that most great success stories show the hero or heroine exiting from their experience stronger than they went in but we always question our own resolve.
We are constantly bombarded with the latest “innovation” stories from Silicon Valley tech startups. Almost never do we hear the stories of amazingly innovative non-profits – but trust me they do exist. As in business, sometimes innovation initiatives succeed but sometimes they miss the mark. How organizations chose to accept and learn from those failures can dramatically influence their future success. They are not just attempting to launch new initiatives, they are creating a culture of innovation.
Last year I began writing an online column for Pollen titled Facing Failure as an effort to spark a discussion on the importance of failure in driving innovation in the non-profit, education, and government sectors. Most of us would prefer to avoid failure and the pain that it can cause but to truly create something new mistakes will need to be made along the way. In politics, a “failed” initiative can quickly sabotage a political career which is why most politicians are quick to dismiss or gloss over their shortcomings. But there are some politicians are trying to reframe the discussion with candor and transparency. I am excited to share my recent interview with one such politician, former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.
With a new year brings the annual cycle of personal New Year’s resolutions. Frequently these resolutions include losing weight, reading more, spending less, or getting more involved. Many of us want to change from our current course to something that is more desirable but statistically 88% of the time we will fail at our resolutions. Oftentimes failure comes early in that we say we want to make changes but we never even take the first step.
Failure knows no distinction to whether our institution is in business, government, education, or the nonprofit sector. Facing Failure is a new monthly series that I have launched today with the civic-minded publication Pollen. The goal for this column is to bring the topic of failure to the forefront of our civic conversations in an attempt to remove the negative stigma. I intend to do this by sharing stories and the lessons learned from business, nonprofit, education, and government sector failures. The best hope for this column would be that we are able to learn from each other and strengthen our Pollen community. If you have a story that you would like to share please reach out and connect via my contact information below.
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